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Recalling the day Canaries put Boro to the sword

PUBLISHED: 15:00 25 September 2017 | UPDATED: 15:42 25 September 2017

City players celebrate play-off success in the Wembley dressing room. From left, Steven Whittaker, Russell Martin, Sebastien Bassong and Martin Olsson. Picture: PA

City players celebrate play-off success in the Wembley dressing room. From left, Steven Whittaker, Russell Martin, Sebastien Bassong and Martin Olsson. Picture: PA

Archant

It’s a long haul up to Middlesbrough: a bit of A17, the perils of the A1 and then the industrial landscape of the north-east all has to be negotiated before a ball is kicked in anger.

Elliott Bennett, right, and Bradley Johnson enjoy the moment.
Picture: PAElliott Bennett, right, and Bradley Johnson enjoy the moment. Picture: PA

For City fans, there will inevitably be memories of the last meeting between the sides – and if anything can make a journey go smoother it will be recalling the events of May 25, 2015 when City beat Boro 2-0 in the Championship play-off final at Wembley.

Many say the best way to earn promotion isn’t by winning the title, it’s by winning the play-off – although that of course has its dangerous lottery element.

However, City had the game sewn up inside the opening quarter-of-an hour. In an outstanding display of game management, goals by Cameron Jerome and Nathan Redmond put City in the driving seat – and Boro hardly got a look-in afterwards.

The game had the perfect backdrop: a beautiful sunny May day in west London, the yellow and green army lighting up the home of football.

Norwich fans arriving at Wembley. 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdNorwich fans arriving at Wembley. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Who can forget the trophy being hoisted aloft by the players, the manager, Alex Neil, then chief executive David McNally?

Days like that are ones to savour, they don’t come around very often. But it was not just a big day out, a jolly boys’ outing to London; there was work to be done, and money to be won – the inescapable fact of the play-offs is that the reward is enormous. It is the biggest prize on offer for a single game of football anywhere. Estimates vary from £80m to £150m, depending on which particular media you read, but the truth is it was closer to £90m.

Of course, the winning club would need every penny to survive in the top flight: it has to be spent wisely, a bit of prudence with ambition as one former chief exec used to say.

And that’s where the problems begin to set in and reality begins to bite.

City took their place in the Premier League for the 2015-16 campaign, and whilst it started off well enough, things became problematic early in the New Year with 11 winless league and cup games and five defeats in the last six. City were relegated, and Middlesbrough came up, automatically, although they too lasted only one season.

The Norwich board celebrate the second goal. 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdThe Norwich board celebrate the second goal. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

So it’s back to square one, still searching for the ultimate prize. The pursuit continues tonight – and if it doesn’t go well, just dream about Wembley on the way home, and what might be ...

Norwich fans celebrate victory. 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdNorwich fans celebrate victory. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Norwich fans celebrate victory. 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdNorwich fans celebrate victory. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Nathan Redmond with the spoils. 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdNathan Redmond with the spoils. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Wes Hoolahan lifts the trophy. 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdWes Hoolahan lifts the trophy. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Happy scenes at the end with, from left, Russell Martin, Wes Hoolahan and Bradley Johnson. 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdHappy scenes at the end with, from left, Russell Martin, Wes Hoolahan and Bradley Johnson. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Nathan Redmond and Bradley Johnson celebrate. 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdNathan Redmond and Bradley Johnson celebrate. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

John Ruddy waves to someone in the crowd. 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdJohn Ruddy waves to someone in the crowd. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Norwich fans during the play-off final. 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdNorwich fans during the play-off final. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

The face of victory! 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdThe face of victory! Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Yellow army. 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdYellow army. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Steven Whittaker and Nathan Redmond celebrate victory. 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdSteven Whittaker and Nathan Redmond celebrate victory. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Norwich celebrate the opening goal. 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdNorwich celebrate the opening goal. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Alex Neil with the trophy. 
Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images LtdAlex Neil with the trophy. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

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